Go For The Gold BY THE WILD BIRD CENTER, WEATHERFORD, TX Every four years we watch in awe as the best in the world go for Olympic gold. They spend years training for this moment in the sun. On other playing fields–the backyards of North America–we seek a different kind of gold. Our reward is the ever- popular American Goldfinch. The challenge, of course, is to get them to come to our feeders, bringing joy and beauty to our gardens and our lives. Fortunately, just as for Olympic athletes, technology and science are aiding our quest. Products that will lure large flocks of muted yellow (this time of year until spring) or crayon-yellow birds (a few weeks before they leave us to migrate north in the spring) to our feeding stations are being introduced all the time, and our body of knowledge about goldfinch feeding preference is also increasing. Food and Feeder Solutions Unlike many other birds that come to our feeders, goldfinches eat seed almost exclusively. They even feed their young partially digested seed. So our feeders are even more important for them than for other species. Perched at and around our feeders, goldfinches eat seed after seed. This gives us wonderful oppor- tunities to watch them at length. In addition, their habit of traveling in flocks can mean that their bright or muted yellow (depending on the time of year) color and cheerful songs are abundant in our gardens. Their favorite feeder foods are hulled sunflower seed, black oil sunflower and of course, Nyjer ® seed. 72 One of the keys to keeping gold- finches around is eliminating their need to compete. Goldfinches will often just give up and fly away when other species crowd around the feeder. Nyjer seed is an especially good seed for goldfinches because so few other species like to eat it. Unfortunately, House Finches are among the few other species that do enjoy thistle, so some feeders have Upside Down Feeder been designed to give goldfinches a competitive edge against these larger, more aggressive cousins. The Down Under feeder, developed and patented by George Petrides, founder of the Wild Bird Centers of America, Inc., is one such product. While experience has shown the goldfinches will happily eat upside down, house finches are more reluctant to do so. By forcing the goldfinch to literally feed upside down with ports positioned below the perches, most other birds are deterred, providing a peaceful place for goldfinches to feed!